Skip to main content

Reply to this post | Go Back
View Post [edit]

Poster: dead-head_Monte Date: Jul 27, 2011 6:39pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Watkins Glen - July 27 and 28, 1973


Watkins Glen - July 27 & 28, 1973
— Summer Jam —

A pirate radio station out of Hartford, Connecticut operated for at least 12 hours from the site of the concert. Broadcasting as CFR AM and CFR FM, they pulled a camper with a fully equipped radio studio into the concert's press area five days before the gates opened and were accepted by the other media as a Canadian radio station setting up to do a remote broadcast of the concert.

Watkins Glen Pirate Radio
— broadcasting the Summer Jam —


150,000 tickets were sold for $10 each, but for all the other people it was a free concert. The crowd was so huge that a large part of the audience was not able to see the stage. However, twelve huge sound amplifiers, installed courtesy of legendary promoter Bill Graham, allowed the audience to at least hear.

The Grateful Dead's legendary soundcheck turned into a two set marathon, featuring their familiar tunes such as "Sugaree", "Tennessee Jed" and "Wharf Rat". They also performed a unique jam that was eventually included on their retrospective CD boxed set.

Many historians claimed that the Watkins Glen event was the largest gathering of people in the history of the United States, about 600,000. In essence, that meant that on July 27 and 28, one out of every 350 people living in America at the time was listening to the sounds of Grateful Dead at this New York state racetrack. Considering that most of those who attended the event hailed from the Northeast, and that the average age of those present was approximately seventeen to twenty-four, close to one out of every three young people from Boston to New York was at the festival — including myself.

A very good archival source for the Watkins Glen summer jam is here. Another good source for the Summer Jam is Wikipedia.

This was the biggest venue Grateful Dead ever played. 600,000 music fans invaded this small upstate NY town of 2000. All I remember about going there are 2 things: the incredible journey it was getting there from the NJ-NYC area; and that I was in survival mode for the whole event. I drove my car there with some friends. The main body of my NJ deadhead friends rented a huge motorhome, and they drove it up there. Then they proceeded to trash it. I believe I helped them out with that. The rest, as they say, is history.

— first things first —
go visit with Santa Claus

— get your psychedelics —
I dropped a lot of hits when I was there

— layout for Watkins Glen racetrack —
I don't remember seeing the Grand Prix racetrack

audio stream
bus ride to the stage for Grateful Dead July 27 soundcheck jam bonus show

— "required listening" (the jam is track 10) —
waiting in line to take a dump after the soundcheck jam

audio stream
the official Summer Jam on July 28

— the aftermath —
me & my friends headed to Roosevelt Stadium for GD on July 31 and Aug 1

Monte's Taper Handbook

This post was modified by dead-head_Monte on 2011-07-28 01:39:13

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: AltheaRose Date: Jul 27, 2011 7:26pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Watkins Glen - July 27 and 28, 1973

Wonderful photos, Monte. Always love seeing the images you post. And thanks for adding a perspective from the good old grubby "golden era" and your taping experiences.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: bkidwell Date: Jul 27, 2011 2:52pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Watkins Glen - July 27 and 28, 1973

Thanks for all the great material you assemble for your posts Monte.

The Watkins Glen soundcheck jam is one of the great moments in the band's musical history, for me. A totally free and open jam that gradually finds its way to a joyous peak, it has always sounded like a living thing to me, a musical plant that sprouted from a magic seed and burst into flowers of sound.

This is true fearless mastery - a free jam from a standing start is impressive and difficult from a musical perspective. It takes courage and confidence in your musical traveling companions to even attempt such a thing. Even for the GD, I am sure the fact that this was a "soundcheck" contributed to the relaxed, in-the-moment open-mindedness you hear in this performance.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: Jim F Date: Jul 28, 2011 12:38am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Watkins Glen - July 27 and 28, 1973

In a weird way I always saw the "Soundcheck Jam" as sortof a soundcheck jam for the Dark Star on 8/1. Both are really unique, interesting, must-hear pieces of mid 1973 Grateful Dead.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: dead-head_Monte Date: Jul 27, 2011 3:11pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Watkins Glen - July 27 and 28, 1973

You've said this several times. I hear you. Thank you very much. It's very refreshing to hear the musical raps you're donating here, from the musician's point of view. Ditto to the rest of you musicians helping out here. Thanks. I used to hear these raps a lot 35 years ago when I was working with bands as a soundman.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: MindBendah Date: Jul 27, 2011 1:26pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Watkins Glen - July 27 and 28, 1973

Great story and photos! Thanks for sharing.

The soundcheck has become one of my favorite GD recordings, with the Jam>Wharf Rat being unfathomably rich and textured, truly a unique experience.

Whats the story with the soundcheck? I remember reading some where, I believe in McNally's book, that the three bands playing there The Band, ABB, and GD where coked up and trying to one up each other. The Band performing first with a complete set, followed by the Dead one uping them with 2 sets, then ABB following by one uping both of them with a complete show. I may be wrong on my info, sorry if I am.

I have not yet spent the time listening to the actual show on the 28th. I have heard it is nothing special. Is it worth a listen to? What are the highlights?

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: light into ashes Date: Jul 27, 2011 10:14pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Watkins Glen - July 27 and 28, 1973

You almost got it. This is what McNally says:
"Because of the number of people already there [on the 27th], there was no alternative but to make the soundcheck a public affair. The Band came on and did about 40 minutes, and the Allmans followed with an hour and 40. Cocaine had lent a competitive edge to the scene, from trailer sizes to backstage amenities, and so the Dead one-upped them and did an entire show."

He says on the 28th, "The Dead opened the show and played listlessly in the heat, perhaps fearing what might happen if they encouraged the crowd to do more than sway. As Weir saw it, they were 'rattled' by the size of everything."
(I'm not sure about that explanation, since they were not so 'rattled' playing to a mere 200,000 people the day before!)

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: dead-head_Monte Date: Jul 27, 2011 3:04pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Watkins Glen - July 27 and 28, 1973

Typically, for my posts like this one, I'm combining my firsthand experiences with a lot of reverse-engineering of archival materials found on the internet. I do not own nor have I read any GD books. My albums are long gone. I'm not a music critic and I try not to rank shows. I'm taking elements off the internet and threading this rich history into a tapestry as I see it... from the point of view of a Hippie-Cowboy-Trail Grub, GD lover, Taper, soundman, electronics tech, and Broadcast Engineer. Sorry, I can't answer your questions.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: leftwinger57 Date: Jul 27, 2011 3:08pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Watkins Glen - July 27 and 28, 1973

great post including pix and tix.I unfortunately couldn't go but I did see the show at Roosevelt Stadium ,and if I remember correctly this day was fantastic w/ three of the most poular American bands of the time.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: snow_and_rain Date: Jul 28, 2011 8:15am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Watkins Glen - July 27 and 28, 1973 / Order restored in the Cosmos

It's my girlfriend's birthday today (anniversary of WG), and I noticed this morning that the old t-shirt that she'd worn to bed -- purely by chance (she is not a Dead head) -- was from a rescued animal farm that she worked on year ago in... wait for it... Watkins Glen, NY.

She never wears this t-shirt. I don't think I've ever seen her wear it once in four years! Now, I ask you... What are the odds?!